Child custody rights refer to the set of rights a parent has upon receiving custody of their child. For example, a parent with legal custody over a child has the right to make important legal decision on behalf of the child. A parent with physical custody of the child has the right to live with the child. Typically, the residence of the parent with physical custody of the child would be considered the child’s primary residence.

A parent with child custody rights may have the right to:

  • Make decisions regarding for the child (such as what type of school to the child to, where to send the child to school, what type of courses the child should take, etc.).
  • Make decisions regarding what religion to raise the child in.
  • Enter into certain legal contracts on behalf of the child.
  • Discipline the child (according to legally permissible limits).
  • Make decisions regarding health care.

Are Visitation Rights the Same Thing as Child Custody Rights?

The short answer to this question is no. Visitation rights are the rights of non-custodial parents to see their child/children on some sort of a regular basis. Non-custodial, in this case, refers to the parent who does not have physical custody of the child. However, non-custodial parents do not automatically receive visitation rights. For example, non-custodial parents with a history of abusing or neglecting the child may be denied visitation rights.

Can Child Custody Rights Be Changed?

Yes. If there is some sort of a significant change in circumstances, then the child custody order can be modified. A modification of a child custody order can result in a change in the child custody rights of a parent. For example, if a parent becomes incarcerated, that parent may lose child custody rights. Or, the parent who originally had physical custody of the child might lose their job. Meanwhile, the other parent may be more financially stable. In such a case, the court might give physical custody of the child to the more financially stable parent.  

Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with Child Custody Rights?

Maneuvering through the child custody system can be a complicated endeavor. A parent with certain issues that may be viewed unfavorably by the court may need some extra help to get through the process. A child custody lawyer can help the parent figure out their options regarding child custody and their rights as a parent.